By Stacey Reed
After making the Top 10 for five years in a row and placing fifth last year overall, BYU placed first overall in this year”s Mini Baja West Competition.
The competition, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, challenges teams from all over the United States and the world to design and present a one-man dune buggy that will endure intense presentation evaluation and a combination of rigorous events.
After placing first in the sales presentation Thursday, May 8, BYU was ready to face the challenges of Friday and Saturday”s events.
More than 100 teams from all different places set up in a muddy hillside in Provo Canyon Friday, May 9.
Each team hovered over their dune buggies, tuning up their engines and making adjustments before the second part of the competition began.
Contestants had two shots at each of the four events offered – the rock crawl, the maneuverability, the hill climb and the acceleration event.
Each also had another chance at victory during the endurance race on Saturday.
Most observers were drawn to the more difficult courses – the maneuverability event and the rock-crawl.
The maneuverability event challenged drivers to maintain speed while making sharp turns, taking steep drops and sweeping through muddy ditches.
Spectators were close enough to experience the tension and exhilaration when one car flipped but finished the race safely, and when one of the Mexico team”s tire flew off after going over a steep drop.
BYU finished in the top five of the maneuverability event with a time of one minute and 11 seconds, and placed second in the rock crawl.
One member from the Buffalo University team said her team came to this competition specifically for the rock-crawl.
“We haven”t come to the West competition before, said Karen Maynard, 21, a mechanical engineering major.” “But one of our captains saw a video of the rock crawl, and we wanted to try it out.”
Maynard said this year”s car was the best they”ve ever had and felt it was time to see, “if they could handle the Rockies.”
Unfortunately, they got stuck between boulders. But Maynard said they were having a great time and said, “she loved Utah and didn”t want to leave.”
Maynard, as well as other contenders, can compete in any of the three competitions offered by the Society of Automotive Engineers – the West, Midwest and the East Mini Baja Competition.
But BYU only competes in the West because the others are held on Sunday.
Bryan Schramm, BYU team member and graduate in mechanical engineering, said the rock crawl event can be more difficult if the car lacks two things – tire suspension and ground clearance.
“We tried to design ours to have good articulation so we could adjust to each event,” he said.
Schramm also said when BYU learned of the rock-crawl event, his team went and practiced getting stuck in boulders and picking lines to maneuver around the rocks.
At the end, only eight teams made it through the rock crawl.
Robert H. Todd, professor of engineering and host organizer for the competition, said the events give the teams a chance to put their vehicles to the test, but another key aspect of the competition is the design.
“We want to have our students and those beyond BYU learn good engineering skills, and to be able to know they can compete well in the building work,” Todd said. “The essence of engineering is design, and this is a chance for students to do real engineering design with a real product.”
In addition to the experience, those involved may also receive career opportunities.
Scott Hill, BYU graduate in management engineering technology and the senior team captain, said this event is definitely an attention getter.
Dale Tree, professor of mechanical engineering and team faculty leader for the extracurricular team, said before Polaris and Honda have hired some students.